A new report from the California Department of Public Health shows that the infant mortality rate in the state in 2012, the last year for which the department has statistics, was a record low of 4.5 infant deaths per 1,000 live births.
According to the Department of Public Health, infant mortality is defined as the number of deaths in infants less than one year of age. In 2012, there were 503,788 births in California and 2,247 infants died that year. The leading cause of infant death in 2012 was congenital malformations, followed by short gestation (pregnancies shorter than 40 weeks) and low birth weight.
“Optimal infant health outcomes are influenced by a woman’s health even before she becomes pregnant, including avoidance of tobacco, alcohol and drugs, maintaining a healthy weight, and taking folic acid supplements,” says Ron Chapman, MD, MPH, state health officer and director of the California Department of Public Health. “Early entry into prenatal care, genetic testing to identify health risks at birth, breastfeeding, childhood immunizations, and continuing proper nutrition through a baby’s developing years all contribute to improving infant health outcomes,” added Dr. Chapman.
Despite the drop in infant deaths, disparities racial and ethnic disparities exist, though the African American and Hispanic infant mortality rates in California have also dropped:
- The Caucasian infant mortality rate decreased from 4.1 infant deaths per 1,000 live births in 2011 to 3.8 in 2012
- The infant mortality rate for African American infants decreased from 10.5 infant deaths per 1,000 live births in 2011 to 9.8 in 2012.
- The Hispanic infant mortality rate decreased from 4.9 infant deaths per 1,000 live births in 2011 to 4.7 in 2012.
In 2010, California had the seventh lowest Infant Mortality Rate among all 50 states and the lowest Infant Mortality Rate among the ten states with the largest number of births. The most recent (2011) national Infant Mortality Rate is 6.05 infant deaths per 1,000 live births, the lowest in history according to the National Center for Health Statistics.
The California Department of Public Health has several initiatives geared toward reducing infant mortality, including prental education and health care; a genetic screening program, nutritional programs and immunization efforts for both pregnant women and infants.